Saturday, July 02, 2005

ParadiGM

[Important note: This post was largely written before I learned that the Nats might be serious in trading for Eric Milton. I have to remark that a Milton trade strikes me as unduly risky and not the least bit unwise. It might compel me to reassess this post in a very serious manner; as of now, though, I'm sticking to the substance of this post.]

How do you evaluate the GM?

---> Is it he shoulda done this/he shoulda done that thing? or,
---> Is it against his peers?

I ask because maybe the fairest way to evaluate a general manager---like ours, Jim Bowden---is against the moves (or lack of moves) made by the other general managers, in light of their own needs. Contrast this approach with evaluating Bowden based on moves you or I would have made, or wouldn't have made.

If this is a fair and legitimate way of doing it, I'd offer that Bowden might rank ahead of at least one GM---namely, Jim Hendry of the Chicago Cubs.

I've listened to a couple innings of Cubs radio during the first two games of this weekend's series, and the one constant, unending, loathesome theme of the broadcasts has been "Oh no, Corey Patterson." Today, when presented with runners at second and third and one out, Patterson failed to do anything except pop up meekly to Jamey Carroll. Ron Santo uttered something afterwards, half-way between a groan and a burp.

Patterson is Chicago's lead-off man; if batting a guy with a .278 on-base percentage in the lead-off spot sounds like negligence, I'd opine that doing so in 2005 strikes me as gross negligence. Patterson isn't a bad player, but he is a bad lead-off man who is having a miserable season. Put it in perspective, folks: despite batting two spots in front of Derrek Lee, who has been without peer this season, Patterson is on pace to score 72 runs. What is this, Dodger Stadium in 1967?

To date, Hendry has done nothing to get guys who can, you know, get on base for Lee and the Cubs' other sluggers.

Sure, Nomar Garciaparra's injured, and that hurts. Then again, the only type of person who could not anticipate Nomar getting has about a similar amount of initiative and grasp on reality as an Attack of the Clones-era Yoda. Clone army? Popping up out of nowhere? Interesting, this is. Injured, Nomar may become? I disagree.


Hendry---who has a good reputation, I should acknowledge---entered the season with Patterson as the team's lead-off man. Never mind that lead-off men changed places in the off-season. Why, I even pined for one to go to the Nats as a short-term fix: Dave Roberts. And this was before any of us realized that the Nats were not only going to be good, not only contenders, but front-runners in July.

The idea of outfitting a purported World Series contender with Corey Patterson as its lead-off man is absolutely unconscionable.

Hendry was forced to act in the off-season, and he didn't; he's forced to act now, and he hasn't. What in the hell is the guy waiting for? Randy Winn's no world-beater, but he can get on base and run a little, and the Mariners apparently want to sell. For whatever reason, Eric Byrnes has been rumored to go to every NL East team; seeing as the Cubs used to be in the NL East, maybe they want to join in the fun and relieve any possibility he might go to the Nats. Even at .328, Byrnes has a half-a-man up on Patterson in OBP, and he wouldn't have to play center, either. Plus, and I know he's a mess, but Alex Sanchez could have been had for free!

Heck, what about my boy, Ryan Freel? The guy has a .406 OBP. (Okay, Hendry gets a temporary pass here, as Freel is currently on the DL.)

The point is that Hendry needs to act. He needs to do something.

That's where a lot of analysts (including myself, probably) missed the point of the Ohka-Spivey trade. I know, I know; it's highly likely that Jim Bowden got taken, in terms of "value"---current value, future value, cool Japanese translation value.

But watch (or, if you're me, listen) to every game, and you'd know this like you know Vinny Castilla's got a nasty mullet: the Nats needed another infielder who could play. Not a superstar, not even a current all-star; a 2002 all-star would do, not because he was once an all-star, but because Junior Spivey is a passable second baseman.

Bowden knew the team was deficient in an area and that the deficiency---when compounded by other problems, one of which was indeed already inflicted by Bowden himself (hey, Cristian Guzman!!!)---had to be addressed before the team siginificantly suffered in the standings.

Starting Carlos Baerga at second base is, roughly speaking, starting Corey Patterson at lead-off. The difference is Baerga only started twice or three times at second base.

Bowden acted; God bless 'im. If Drese really does work out (and I'm already having trouble keeping up with Boz's up-and-downism on the subject), then Bowden should be up for consideration to Svrlugaland, if you know what I mean.

Analysts---which I guess was the self-serving term "we" used before most of us downshifted to just plain "bloggers"--- have long made fun of Bowden because the guy simply won't sit still; his utter lust for "toolsy outfielders" is a manifestation of Bowden's need to do something. I always associated "Bowden" with "pointless moves" when Bodes was GM of the Reds, but now I'm not so sure. He's aggressive and he's pro-active. Not all of his DC moves have been great; in addition to Guuuzz, Vinny Castilla looked pretty bad at the time, was vindicated for a spell, and now looks like sixty percent of Joe Randa, for more cost and twice the length of time.

But, I'll tell you this: Bowden's lucky sometimes---and, in order to be lucky, you have to be willing to be lucky.

In contrast, Hendry has been stagnant. He hasn't acted, and he really needs to act.

Today, after the game, here was an exchange between Chicago manager Dusty Baker and a sportswriter:

Sportswriter: When are you going to go with a new lead-off man.
Baker: When I get a new lead-off man.

Hendry's had a need for quite awhile, and he hasn't acted to date. It strikes me that we, as Nats' fans, could do a lot worse.

[Note: It is not lost on me that Jerry Hairston, a guy with a .358 OBP and the ability to play multiple positions, is mainly a bench player for the Cubs. He could be an answer at the lead-off spot; he does have "prototypical lead-off skills" (i.e., speed and not a lot of power). But, for whatever reason (and it doesn't appear to be injury), Hairston hasn't seen everyday play in his first season in Chicago. Maybe Hendry did provide a lead-off guy, and Baker has stuck to Todd Hollandsworth in gratitude. I don't know; I do know, though, that if this was the lead-off guy Hendry handed Baker, he seems conspicuously quiet about it.]

Comments:
Hairston isn't playing because he complained about not playing (after Todd Walker went down and Baker turned to Nefi Perez). Baker didn't like that, so he's determined to show Hairston who the boss is.
 
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